A quick trip down Top Of The World sent Jared Graves to the top of the podium Sunday (Aug. 11). The Australian rider won the final stage of Crankworx Whistler's SRAM Canadian Open Enduro to capture the open men's scratch title.
Graves trailed France's Jerome Clementz by 20 seconds heading into the fifth and final leg of Sunday's Enduro World Series stop, but overcame the deficit by descending from the peak of Whistler Mountain to Skiers Plaza nearly 25 seconds faster than anyone else in the field.
“It's all a bit of a blur, really. I'm just so pumped it's over and I've won,” said Graves.
“Crankworx is the one that everyone's been talking about all year and the one everyone wants to win … This is a man's track, you know? If you can win here, you can win anywhere.”
With an overall time of 47 minutes, 57.226 seconds over the five stages, Graves finished 12 seconds ahead of Clementz, who had won three stages throughout the day and came to Whistler having won back-to-back Enduro World Series events. New Zealand's Jamie Nicoll (+1:54.139) finished third.
But the big highlight for most in the crowd was Whistler rider Jesse Melamed's breakout performance, placing sixth overall to post the top Canadian finish and lead a bunch of impressive local results.
“I would never have thought that I could run with the fastest guys in the world. I thought it would take a couple of years, at least,” said Melamed, who's in his first season focused on enduro racing. “To be here at this stage of my life is pretty sick.”
Melamed was in the top 20 of every stage, including two top-five finishes. He placed third on Stage 3 — which featured Westside trails Pura Vida and Baby Snakes — and nearly won it, finishing just a few seconds back of winner Fabien Barel.
“Stage 3 today, I had a crash at the bottom that threw away six seconds and I think I was five seconds off the lead, so that would have been huge,” said Melamed.
The 21-year-old was just 12 seconds away from a spot on the overall podium. Melamed said he was feeling a lot of pressure riding at home this week, but he hopes having a strong finish at Crankworx can be a big stepping stone for him.
“I was telling my parents … that this could decide my career. If I get a good result here I can show my team, Rocky Mountain, that I have what it takes to be a top-level rider. I think I do, I just have to prove it,” he said.
Whistler-based New Zealander Chris Johnston finished eighth Sunday, while several other local riders also had solid races. Tyler Morland wound up 18th, Matt Ryan was 21st, while Nick Geddes and Dylan Wolsky were separated by just .019 seconds and placed 25th and 26th, respectively.
“It's great seeing all the local boys kill it,” said Wolsky. “I've been on the road now most of the season and we're always racing in someone else's backyard … so it was good to come home last week and have a bit of some local advantage.”
In the open women's scratch race, French rider Anne Caro Chausson captured the victory with a time of 55:24.197. Chausson finished more than a full minute ahead of runner-up Tracy Moseley, who won the first four races of the Enduro World Series. France's Cecile Ravanel finished third.
“It was a long day. The stages were very technical and physical … and this is what I prefer,” said Chausson, who collected four stage wins en route to the title.
B.C. rider Katherine Short had the top Canadian result with a 12th-place finish.
Graves, who earned $10,000 for the men's win, said most of the top riders arrived in Whistler without much knowledge of the trails, making Crankworx somewhat of a “neutral place” compared to other stops on the series to date. Despite that, the 30-year-old did have some supporters on hand to celebrate the victory with.
“I've got some mates from home,” he said. “One of the guys I grew up riding with every afternoon is here, so I'm sure I'll have a beer or two with him tonight.”
The next stop on the Enduro World Series takes place Aug. 24 and 25 at Val d'Isere, France.